On Monday, federal judges rejected a redistricted congressional map in Alabama, saying that the Republican-drawn map likely violated the Voting Rights Act, which protects voting rights for non-white groups.
The judges ruled that the Republican-led legislature in the state must redraw new maps that give Black voters two districts with a majority-Black population or “in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice,” the panel of three judges wrote.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the ruling reads. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
The legislature must now draw a new map, which is due in two weeks. If lawmakers fail to pass a new map in that time, the court will appoint a third party expert to draw a new map for them.
The court found that the plaintiffs would be “substantially likely” to successfully demonstrate that the map violates the Voting Rights Act.
“The congressional map our Legislature enacted fails Alabama’s voters of color,” plaintiff Evan Milligan said in a statement. “We deserve to be heard in our electoral process, rather than have our votes diluted using a map that purposefully cracks and packs Black communities.”
The rejected map, which the legislature approved last year, has only one majority-Black district, which represents only about 14 percent of the state’s districts. But Black people make up about 27 percent of the state’s total population, meaning that the state’s remaining majority white districts would get disproportionate representation. Two majority-Black districts of the state’s seven total regions would give the state’s Black population more equal representation.
The state’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall, has already said that his office plans to appeal the ruling “in the coming days,” according to a spokesperson.
Chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee Eric H. Holder Jr. told The New York Times that the court’s decision is “a win for Alabama’s Black voters, who have been denied equal representation for far too long.”
“The map’s dilution of the voting power of Alabama’s Black community — through the creation of just one majority-Black district while splitting other Black voters apart — was as evident as it was reprehensible,” Holder said.
This is the second time that Republicans have had their congressional maps thrown out by the courts. Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s Republican-drawn district map for being unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Voting rights advocates said that the map would have given disproportionate favor to the GOP and violated the Voting Rights Act by marginalizing Black voters.